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Oil on canvas figure study by LS Lowry sold for £98,000 at Woolley & Wallis.

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Dated to 1949, it was painted at a time when Lowry was beginning to tire of industrial scenes populated by his trademark matchstick figures, preferring to make studies of local individuals instead.

This small 9 x 6in (22.5 x 15cm) oil on canvas shows two men looking askance at a woman walking by. “It’s not a kind picture at all, there appears to be some mockery going on,” said Victor Fauvelle, head of pictures at W&W in Salisbury. “Lowry’s pictures often have a lonely and often quite sinister feel to them.”

It was purchased by the private vendor in 1953 from Alex Reid & Lefevre Gallery, the dealership that held the artist’s first solo show in London in 1939. This provenance was especially appealing, given that forgeries of Lowry’s pictures are sadly common.

On the day, it was pursued above its £30,000-50,000 guide to £98,000 where it was knocked down to an anonymous buyer. The price is comparable to another oil, also depicting three figures and dating from the late 1940s, which sold at Sotheby’s London in July 2013 for a premium-inclusive £110,500.

Need for Speed

Another popular work in Salisbury was a 1942 painting of St Paul’s during the Blitz by English artist Harold Speed (1872-1957).

The 2ft 11in x 3ft 4in (89cm x 1.02m) oil on canvas came to the saleroom via a private vendor and was described as an “exceptional picture” by the artist in top condition. It sold to a private collector for over six times the upper guide at £22,000 – among the strongest prices for the artist at auction.